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Resonance Days (Puella Magi Madoka Magicka)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by TakerFoxx, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Resonance Days
    Table of Contents
    Chapters

    Christmas Specials
    Specials/Omakes
    Other Links

    Credits
    Much thanks to Razor One for his help in ironing out this story's wacky world and its various culture weirdness. Cheers!
  2. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Obligatory FF.net link.
    Awakening

    Prologue

    Oblivion was dying, and nobody knew except for her and the person she hated the most.

    She sat hunched over on her black throne, clutching at the wound in her stomach. There was no blood, though black vapor leaked out between her fingers. Though she was in great pain, there was a smile of satisfaction on her face.

    The towering door opened, sending an echo through the cathedral-like room. And in walked a bizarre looking animal. At first glance one might mistake it for a large black cat with a long, thin tail that curled over its back like a chameleon. However, its head was strangely triangular, with the tip ending at a beaklike point. Out of each ear hung a floppy appendage that appeared to be part arm, part antennae. Its beady eyes glowed red in the shadows of the darkened room.

    Seemingly without a care in the world, the creature padded over to the throne and sat down on the floor, its unblinking eyes watching Oblivion with evident interest.

    "Well, color me surprised," it said. Or rather, it didn't, for it had no visible mouth with which to form the words. But, even though they were not said out loud, Oblivion still heard them just as clearly. "You actually went through with it!" It turned its head and scratched it with its shoulder with its hind leg. "And here I thought you were just all talk."

    Oblivion showed her teeth in a mad grin with triumph. "Y-yes…" she whispered, her voice growing weaker by the second. "I…I did. And you lost…lost your pawn."

    The creature laughed. "And once again, you exceed my expectations of your stupidity. Dear idiot, how do you think the previous Oblivion vacated her position? You were always the expendable half of our relationship."

    Oblivion's face, already unnaturally pale, was now dimming to transparency. "But it won't…be me," she gasped. "It won't be me."

    "No, it won't." The creature turned away from the dying girl. "What a relief. You always were a bore. Fortunately, I have your replacement already, and she promises to be lots of fun!"

    Oblivion would have answered, but she didn't have the strength. She sank back into her throne, her eyes now blind with agony. Her mouth opened, and black smoke issued forth in a thick torrent. The effect it had on her body was like that of a balloon punctured with a pin. It simply deflated, collapsing in on itself and fading away until there was nothing left but the swirling dark cloud overhead.
    ...
    Kyoko Sakura awoke to the gentle sound of falling rain.

    Her eyes opened just a crack, and she stared blearily at the apple and fish mobile hanging above her head. It moved slowly, the flat, plastic fishes chasing the red fruit around in circles. Kyoko didn't blame them. She liked apples too.

    But at that moment, she decided that she liked sleep just a little bit more. She yawned, rolled over and pulled the sheet up over her head.

    I don't own an apple and fish mobile.

    Kyoko's eyes snapped open and she sat up with a gasp. As the sound of her heart pounded in her ears, she stared at the strange room she had woken up in.

    She was lying in a bed with a metal wire frame and a plain white pillow and sheets. Directly across from her was brown dresser, and against the far wall was computer desk. There was a door next to the dresser. The lights were off, and she could hear the rain continue to patter down outside.

    Kyouko recognized it immediately. The mobile was new, but otherwise the arrangement was almost exactly like her old bedroom, back home. Before she had become a Puella Magi, and for a short time afterward.

    But why would she be waking up here? That room was gone, along with the rest of that place. And more to the point, why was she waking up at all? By all rights she should be…

    A sharp chill ran down her spine. Kyouko threw away the covers and quickly checked herself. She was unharmed and dressed in her usual outfit, consisting of a pale green hooded jacket over a black tank top, a pair of short shorts and knee-high boots. That in itself was not unusual, but given her most recent memory, she should be in a condition that could only be described as "Broken beyond repair".

    Kyoko grimaced and kicked the rest of the covers away. She had no idea what was going on, but she was certain of one thing. Someone was screwing with her, and it was pissing her off.

    First things first. She needed to figure out why she was here and who had brought her here. And to do that, she needed to start looking for clues. She swung her legs around to hop out of the bed, or at least tried to. One of her boots had somehow gotten tangled in the sheets, and she found herself stumbling into the dresser with a gasp of surprise.

    She managed to catch herself before falling over. Kyoko let out an annoyed grunt and shook the sheets free. Then she looked up.

    Her blood ran cold.

    There, above the dresser, was a collage of framed photographs. They were all of different parts of the exterior of her father's cathedral and were arranged in such a way so as to construct the whole building. However, they appeared to have been taken at different times. The ones near the bottom were from when it had been at the height of its success, with the stones clean and well cared for and members of the congregation standing around and enjoying each other's company. But as the pictures moved higher up they also moved forward in time, documenting the once-proud structure's decay until the ones at the top showed it for what it was now. Empty. Abandoned.

    Ruined. By her hand.

    Kyoko swallowed. Her eyes moved back down to the depictions of its happier days. In the center photograph on the bottommost row was a smiling family. Her family. Her father and mother stood on either side of her younger self, with her little sister sleeping contently in her father's arms. She remembered taking that picture, right after she had made the contract that had transformed her into a Puella Magi and ensured her father's success. Or so she had thought at the time.

    Then she noticed that the dresser itself also contained framed photographs. However, only one was sitting upright, with two others lying facedown. Unlike the picture of her family, this one had captured an event that had never happened. It was of her, with her arms around the shoulders of two other girls and her trademark smirk on her face. The girl on the left was a bit older than her, with a full figure, heavy-lidded eyes and blond hair that curled in two spirals on either side of her face. She wore a small but confident smile. The girl on the right was the youngest of the trio, with short blue hair and an energetic grin. All three wore the extravagant outfits of the Puella Magi.

    Mami Tomoe and Sayaka Miki. Fellow Puella Magi, and the only two that she had been on any kind of friendly terms with. And in both situations, things had turned out badly. Very badly.

    With a growing sense of apprehension, Kyoko picked up the fallen pictures and set them right. One was of Mami Tomoe's corpse as it was devoured by a monstrous witch. The other showed the bodies of her family, hanging lifeless from the roof of her father's cathedral, just as she had found them after her father had forced them to commit suicide, all in response to finding out the true reason for his church's success.

    Kyoko stared at the photographs. Though she had not witnessed Mami's death for herself, she had no reason to believe that the scene depicted before her was inaccurate. The one with her family certainly was.

    Then she turned her attention to the computer desk. It was bare save for a laptop sitting closed in front of the chair. She walked over to the laptop and flipped it open. It booted immediately, the glow of the screen illuminating the room with an eerie luminescence. There was but one program, a media player. Inside, she found but one file, a video under the file name of "ENDGAME".

    She moved the cursor over the file and double-clicked.

    The video started playing immediately, and the room filled with the sounds of battle. The picture showed Kyoko herself, in full Puella Magi gear but bleeding from multiple wounds. She was riding an oversized version of her spear, the tip of which was pointed directly at the heart of huge monster that seemed to be part mermaid, part night and part orchestral conductor.

    The spear hit, killing the witch and Kyoko in the same action. There was a brief pause, and then the video restarted.

    Kyoko once again stared at the display of cruelty. The witch had been what Sayaka Miki had become despite Kyoko's best efforts to deter her. And once it had become obvious that she could not be saved, Kyoko had decided to eliminate her in that manner so as to put her out of her misery and ensure that she would not die alone.

    In fact, that had been her most recent memory before waking up in this place. She was supposed to have died then. This video confirmed that. She was supposed to be dead. Why, then, was she now alive and uninjured in a sadistic mockup of her room surrounded by pieces of her past displayed specifically to torment her?

    Her mouth twisted into a snarl of rage. Her hands balled into fists, and her body started shaking. Then, with a cry of fury, she smacked the laptop across the desk and sent it crashing into the far wall. The screen cracked, but the video did not stop looping.

    However, smashing it against the floor and stomping on it until it was nothing more than a mess of circuits and crushed plastic did the trick.

    Then she turned her attention to the pictures on the wall and dresser. Still crying out, Kyoko tore them down and smashed them against the floor, the top of the dresser, the wall and the door. Anything with a hard surface.

    After that came the dresser. She yanked each of the drawers out and tossed them aside. Doing so upset their contents. Gnawed chicken bones, empty pocky boxes, discarded candy wrappers, rotten apple cores and other evidence of food long eaten scattered everywhere. This of course only served to enrage her further. It was not enough that they had to torment her with horrible scenes from her life and (presumed) death, now they were taunting her as well. She grasped the side of the dressed and pulled it down into the mess. Then she slammed the heel of her right boot into its back until the thin wood cracked and her foot plunged right through.

    Following this was the bed. The sheets and pillows were flung every which way, the mattress upended onto the wreck of the dresser and the frame overturned. Then she snatched up the chair and slammed it against the top of the desk until it broke into pieces. The desk itself was then overturned in short order.

    Shaking with adrenaline, Kyoko panted as she surveyed the devastation, searching for something else to break. She then noticed an object hanging on the far wall, opposite of where the desk had stood. Eyes narrowed, she took an aggressive step forward with the intention of adding its destruction to the wreckage.

    And then she recognized it and froze in her tracks.

    It was one of her segmented spears, the ones she created to battle witches. Held normally, it functioned as a spear was supposed to and could be used to counter, whack, stab and slash alike. But when she wished it (as she often did) the shaft would separate into linked segments and lengthen, allowing her to whip it about and deliver a satisfying amount of punishment. Kyoko had always been pleased with her weapon's adaptability. It suited her personality.

    Now, she stared at the one hanging before her. She had not taken on her Puella Magi form, so there was no reason for it to just be hanging there, independent of her.

    Then realization struck and she looked down at her hand. When not in use, she wore the source of her power, her soul gem, in ring form on one finger. It was easier to carry that way, and should she ever need to summon something pointy without going through the rigmarole of transforming, it was always at hand.

    But now it was gone. All of her fingers were bare.

    Kyoko quickly searched herself and came up with nothing. She then frantically looked about the room, overturning the wrecked furniture, trash and smashed pictures. It was nowhere to be found.

    The feeling of dread that had been growing inside her ever since she woke up now skyrocketed. How could her soul gem be gone? As the name implied, it literally contained her soul. Without it nearby, her body would become a lifeless thing, no better than a corpse. But even when she didn't have it on her, she was always able to sense its location, just as she knew where her hands or feet were without having to look at them. It was a part of her. Separating her from her soul gem without her knowledge should be impossible.

    But regardless, her soul gem was still missing.

    Kyoko stood stock-still as the implications flew through her mind. Then the horror melted away as her fury was ignited anew. Someone was screwing with her. Someone was screwing with her a lot. And she could think of only one way to deal with people who screwed with her.

    She snatched her spear down from the wall and hefted it in her hands. It felt as natural as always. She gave it a couple experimental swings to test the balance and then gave the command for the shaft to separate. To her surprise, it obeyed, just as it always had.

    Kyoko grinned. Well, she had that going for her at least. She cracked it back and forth, tearing gouges in the walls in the process. Good.

    Satisfied that it was working as it should, Kyoko turned to leave the room. There was someone she needed to find, someone she needed to hurt. She didn't know who it was yet, but it didn't matter. They were going to be hurting soon, no matter who they were.

    Then she remembered something. Kyoko glanced over her shoulder, sighed, and swung the spear around in a swift arc. Severed from the ceiling, the stupid fish-and-apple mobile fell to the floor, allowing her to stomp it into ruin.

    That done, Kyoko opened the door and left the destroyed room behind her.

    ...

    Hot…so hot…

    Who…where am I? What happened?

    Hurts…everything…burns…everything…

    …so hot…

    ...

    Despite the pains that had been taken to make the room that Kyoko had woken up in resemble her old bedroom, the same attention had not been paid to the rest of the place. Kyoko wasn't sure where she was, but she certainly had never seen it before.

    The best she could tell, she was in some sort of house or apartment. The room exited to a hallway. The end to her left opened to what had to be the living room. The end to the right had nothing but a full length mirror. There were only two doors in the hallway, the one she was now leaving and one a bit down the way from her, near the mirror. More pictures lined both walls, though these were less psychologically cruel. The ones on her end just showed endless crosses, ranging from detailed crucifixion scenes to hastily scrawled "t" shapes. The pictures on the other side were all of musical notes. Kyoko didn't understand it but didn't care. She knew that her prey was a nut.

    Most of the lights were off, leaving the place a dim mystery. There was some sort of flickering white light coming from the living room, and the light in whatever room was behind the other door was on. Beyond, she could hear a shower running, meaning that it was probably the bathroom.

    Kyoko's grip tightened on her spear as an eager grin slashed its way across her face. So, her prey had decided to clean themselves up. Well, murders in the shower were classic scenes from the movies, and always turned out poorly for the person without the blade. Kyoko liked the idea of playing the killer. Though in this case, she wasn't going to kill them. Not right away, at least. First she was going to make them explain what in the hell was going on and where they had brought her. Then she was going to torture the location of her soul gem out of them. And then, when she was sure that there was nothing more they could tell her, maybe she'd kill them, depending on what kind of mood she was in at the time. Either way, this was going to be a blast.

    She crept toward the bathroom and stood ready by the door. She was going to have to do this quickly, before they had a chance to realize what was going. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the handle, threw the door open and leapt inside.

    But for the second time in so many minutes, what see saw brought her up short.
  3. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    It was a bathroom, as she had predicted. Before her was an old-fashioned ivory bathtub, the kind that sat on brass dragon's feet. A showerhead was stuck on the top of a long pipe. It was turned on full blast, spraying steaming hot water on the bathtub's nude occupant. For their part, they didn't seem to notice that the water was starting to scald their skin and cover them with first-degree burns. In fact, they looked to be completely unconscious.

    It was as good as a setup as Kyoko could have hoped for. Unconscious and burned, they would be unable to fight back. However, all thought of attack had been driven from Kyoko's mind. She knew that person. She knew them very well.

    "Sayaka!" Kyoko cried. She dropped her spear and raced to the other girl's side. "Come on, wake up!"

    She grabbed Sayaka by the shoulder and shook her. To her relief, Sayaka let out a weak moan. Good, she wasn't gone just yet. But if she were left in that water much longer, she might as well be.

    "Come on, Sayaka," Kyoko said as she grabbed Sayaka by the armpits and tried to haul her out of the tub. "Get out of there, you stupid-" Scalding water hit her hand. "-Ow!"

    Kyoko lurched back and sucked on her fingers. "Idiot," she hissed at herself as she rushed over to the other end of the bathtub. Two ivory knobs stuck out just below the edge. She grabbed the one controlling the hot water and tried to twist it.

    It wouldn't budge.

    Feeling panic rise, Kyoko looked up to the showerhead itself. Maybe she could…No. Smashing it would be a horrible idea. She'd just end up spraying the water everywhere.

    There were several fuzzy green towels hanging from a nearby rack. Kyoko grabbed two, wrapped them tightly over her hands and once again tried to lift Sayaka out of the tub. She braced her feet against the tub's side, set her teeth, and pulled with all her might.

    This time it worked, and she was able to get Sayaka out of harm's way and onto the linoleum floor.

    Kyoko threw the towels aside and starting slapping the only part of Sayaka that hadn't been burned by the water: her face. "Sayaka!" she yelled. "Can you hear me? Come on, wake up already!"

    Sayaka moaned again but didn't regain consciousness. Kyoko sat down next to her, drew her knees up under her chin and wondered what she should do next.

    It was then she finally noticed that there was something horribly wrong with the blue-haired girl lying unconscious at her side. While her torso was covered in painful looking burns, she was, at least, fully human from the waist up, exactly as she had been before becoming a witch.

    From the waist down, however, things were different. Instead of legs, she had a large fish's tail, covered with scales of blue, black, and maroon and two fins that flared in a rainbow of the colors of fire. In short, Sayaka was now a mermaid.

    Now Kyoko was getting scared again. The horrifying witch Sayaka had become, the one that Kyoko had sacrificed herself to kill, had also been in possession of a mermaid's tail. Of course, she had been much larger then, wearing a full suit of bizarre armor and behaving in a generally terrifying manner, but a mermaid she had been.

    It was then that Kyoko finally noticed the state of her surroundings. The same level of care that had gone into turning the bedroom into a house of horrors for her had gone into turning this bathroom into one for Sayaka. However, instead of framed photographs, the vile scenes were in the tiny ceramic tiles of the walls themselves.

    Two mosaic scenes were depicted on either side of the room. On the left, Kyoko saw Sayaka as a normal human girl, surrounded by the people she cared about. Holding her right hand was that one violinist boy she had been so obsessed about, whatshisname. Holding her left was that dippy pink-haired girl, the one everyone always seemed to think was so important. Next to her (and farthest away from the violin boy, Kyoko noted) was that one green-haired girl. Behind Sayaka with their hands on her shoulders were a pleasant looking man and woman. Kyoko guessed that this had to be her parents. Everyone was smiling and looked happy to be together.

    The scene on the right, however, wasn't nearly so lighthearted. It looked like it was of Sayaka's funeral, with a photograph of her face surrounded by candles. However, only a fraction of the candles were lit, and none of the people there seemed to care. The violin boy and the green-haired girl were off in one corner, kissing passionately. The pink-haired girl was laughing and holding hands with that mystery Puella Magi, Homura. No one was paying Sayaka's picture any attention, and her parents were nowhere to be seen at all.

    Once, soon after they had met, Kyoko had pointed out that since Sayaka had cured the violin boy of his injury with her wish, he no longer needed her. Kyoko had then sardonically suggested that if Sayaka wanted to make him hers forever, all she had to do was break all of his limbs. She had even offered to do it herself, as a favor. She hadn't been serious at the time but now, looking at that scene, Kyoko really did want to cripple that boy. And everyone else in that scene, for that matter. Sayaka had given up everything for them, including her humanity and her life, and how did they repay her? By spitting on her gifts and refusing to so much as thank her.

    Kyoko knew exactly what that was like.

    Then she looked over her shoulder. There, in the wall around the toilet, was pictured a huge armored monster holding a sword. It was the orchestra-conducting witch Sayaka had become. Only in the mosaic showed it slumped over with Kyoko's spear cutting through the breastplate and protruding out the back.

    Kyoko reevaluated the targets of her anger. Forget Sayaka's so-called loved ones. Kyoko needed to get back to what she was doing, and deliver the one responsible for this situation into a world of pain.

    Sayaka's breathing had slowed to a peaceful rhythm, but she still showed no signs of waking. Kyoko hoisted her up again by the armpits and dragged her over to prop her against the wall.

    "All right," Kyoko said. "I'm going to be right back. If you wake up before I'm done, don't go anywhere. If I get back to find you gone, I'm going to be all kinds of pissed."

    Sayaka didn't answer. Of course.

    With an annoyed grunt, Kyoko stood up. Then she grabbed her spear and headed out.

    ...

    The hallway was just as silent and empty as it had been when she left it. Apparently all of the shouting she had just done had failed to attract the attention of their kidnapper. Kyoko slipped out of the bathroom and carefully closed the door behind her.

    The light from the presumed living room continued to flicker, and if she concentrated, Kyoko could just make out the sound of voices, barely audible through the sound of the shower. She crept forward, spear at the ready. When she reached the end of the hall, she took cover along the way and peeked in.

    As predicted, the room beyond was some sort of living room. Or at least half of it was. The right side was a small combo kitchen/dining room, with a refrigerator, sink, stove and round table surrounded by four chairs separated from the left side by a linoleum counter. The other half held two couches along the walls, a recliner in the center of the room that faced away from Kyoko and a television sitting in a wall unit. The television was the source of both the light and the voices, as some sort of movie was playing with the sound down low. There were no windows.

    There was, however, someone sitting in the recliner.

    Kyoko's grin returned. There he was. Or her. That point was going to be resolved in a few seconds, along with several other mysteries.

    She tiptoed toward the chair. Then, when she was close enough, she whipped the spear around so that it wrapped around the recliner and it occupant and grabbed it as it came swinging around. She pulled tight, trapping her target in the chair.

    "Move and you're dead," she hissed.

    Her target obeyed.
  4. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Kyoko nodded in satisfaction. "You probably thought you could get away with it, did'ja?" she said. "Thought you could just take us away and screw with our minds. Guess no one told you how dangerous Puella Magi are. Or maybe this is just some sort of complicated form of suicide. Either way though, you're going to answer some questions. Let's start with the obvious: who in hell are you and why did you bring us here?"

    Kyoko waited, but her target was apparently so paralyzed by fear that they couldn't even speak.

    "Hey, didn't you just hear me?" Kyoko asked. She gave her makeshift lasso a sharp tug. "I just asked you a question! Who are you? Why did you bring us here? Where's my soul gem? What's with all that bullshit in the pictures? How did you make Sayaka human again? Come on, start talking or I'm going to start counting how many bones I can break before you go into shock!"

    Again, her prisoner remained silent.

    Now Kyoko was growing mad. "What the hell are you trying to prove? I mean it! I will kill you as painfully as possible if you don't start talking. Come on, say something!"

    When this too failed to elicit a response, Kyoko's temper snapped. "You irritating bastard!" she cried as she yanked hard on the lasso. The chair fell backward, occupant and all. Kyoko whipped her spear away and gave the chair a sharp kick, sending it tumbling to its side.

    Kyoko leapt onto the side of the upturned recliner. She landed in a crouch and pointed the tip of the spear at her fallen prisoner. "All right, that does it! I'm going to start with the toes and work my way…Huh?"

    As it turned out, the thing in the chair was not her captor. It wasn't a person. It wasn't even alive. It was the upper half of a suit of extravagant armor. It wore a cape with a tall, heart-shaped collar that was tied with a red ribbon around its neck. The helmet was skull-like and disturbing, with several miniature swords fused into a metallic representation of a high hairdo. Clutched in one hand was a cutlass, identical to the ones Sayaka had wielded in battle.

    It was the same armor that Sayaka's witch had worn, the one from the mural in the bathroom. Only now it was shrunk down to human size.

    Kyoko stared at the empty armor. The fire in her veins was again freezing to ice. Her invisible adversary was playing mind games with her again, and damned it if weren't effective.

    It was only then that she thought to check what was on TV.

    It was another one of her memories, one almost as recent as that of her death, but somehow even more painful. Kyoko stared at the television and remembered.


    It had taken her a long time, but Kyoko finally found her. Sayaka was sitting by herself at a subway station at night, staring at her shoes with a look of hopelessness on her face. Rolling her eyes, Kyoko ran up to her, out of breath from the search.

    "I finally found you," she panted as she sat down next to the blue-haired girl and pulled open a can of chips. "How long are you going to blow off your friends?"

    "Sorry to bother you," Sayaka muttered. She did not meet Kyoko's eyes.

    Kyoko, of course noticed. "What's wrong?" she asked irritably. "You're not acting like yourself."

    Sayaka took her time answering. "I just don't care anymore," she said at last.

    Kyoko didn't have a response, so Sayaka continued. "What do I even care about? What do I want to protect? I don't even know anymore."

    "Hey," Kyoko said, just a bit fed up with Sayaka's self-loathing.

    Then Sayaka opened her hand, revealing her soul gem. Kyoko gasped in horror when she saw that the its normally blue color had been consumed by darkness.

    "The balance of hope and despair is always zero, you said so yourself," Sayaka continued, seemingly heedless of her own perilous state. "I understand what you meant now."

    Now Sayaka's demeanor was starting to scare Kyoko. She was swaying back and forth, and seemed to be speaking more to herself than to her companion.

    "I've saved plenty of people," she said. "But in exchange, resentment and pain took root in my heart." She held up her corrupted soul gem, an empty smile on her face. "I'm even hurting my best friend now."

    "Sayaka!" Kyoko blurted out. "Are you-"

    "As much as I wished for the happiness of one," Sayaka continued, not even noticing Kyoko now, "someone else must be equally cursed. That's how the story of a Puella Magi goes."

    She took a deep shuddering breath and finally turned to face Kyoko. Tears filled her eyes, though that empty smile never left her face. "I've been such a fool," she said.

    And then a tear fell from her eyes to land on her soul gem.

    The next thing Kyoko knew, she was being thrown back by an explosion of force. Sayaka's soul gem had exploded, and the pieces reformed themselves into a shape that she knew all too well: that of a grief seed, the talisman of a witch. Sayaka's body fell limply to the ground as darkness and strange shapes danced in the air around her.

    Kyoko managed to grab a nearby railing and held on for dear life, though the dark power emanating from Sayaka was too strong. "Sayaka!" she screamed as she desperately tried to keep her grip. And then…


    Then there was a click and a whirr. Static consumed the image, and when it cleared, Kyoko was once again running up to Sayaka as she sat alone on a bench.

    Kyoko, the real one, cried out and threw her spear right through the television. The screen exploded in a spray of sparks. She yanked it back out and started bashing the machine into scrap, just has she had done with the laptop. Only this time, she had a weapon, and was able to reduce the television to ruined components much faster.

    "Where are you?" she screamed when she was done. "Stop hiding in the shadows! I'm right here! Come and get me!"

    She hadn't really expected her challenge to get a response, and thus was not surprised when it didn't. However, she was plenty pissed off. She hated being screwed with, and she hated being ignored. And now her unseen enemy had managed the strange feat of doing both at the same time.

    Kyoko was sorely tempted to thrash this room as she had the bedroom, but was able to rein in her violent impulses. She was done with this place. It was time to get Sayaka and get the hell out of here. So she yanked Sayaka's cutlass out of the metal fingers that held it and marched back toward the bathroom.

    But as it turned out, the place was not done with Kyoko and had one last trick for her. Before, she hadn't paid much attention to the mirror in the hallway. But as she rounded the corner, she got a good look at her reflection.

    In it, she was wearing a sleeveless waist-length red battle tunic that opened over a maroon-and-pink striped skirt. She had on black thighhighs and tall boots the color of dried blood, each adorned with a red gem at the knee. White detached sleeves covered her arms, with heavy black cuffs around the wrists.

    It was her Puella Magi uniform, the outfit she wore to battle. The only thing missing was her soul gem, which she always wore as part of her tunic, just below the collarbone. The space for it was there, but the gem itself was gone.

    Kyoko looked down at herself and her green jacket and pair of short. Then she looked back at her inaccurate reflection. The pieces were now coming together.

    Sayaka's tail aside, most of what she had seen so far could be accomplished using only human resources. The pictures, the mosaic, the videos and so on were possible to replicate by ordinary people, if not difficult. But she hadn't known of any technology that would cause her reflection to be changed to such a degree. Hypothetically speaking, such an illusion might exist, but it was far more likely that the effect was achieved through magic.

    Of course, the fact that she was still alive and moving around without her soul gem had already confirmed that, as did Sayaka's partial return to humanity. And this only cemented it further. The suspect pool had been narrowed down to three types of enemies.

    The first was that this was the work of an Incubator, like that damned Kyubey. Their full capabilities were yet unknown, and they were certainly capable of something like this.

    The second was another Puella Magi. Despite having a common origin and ultimate goals, the Magi rarely worked well together, and it was not unheard of for one to start attacking her competitors.

    The final suspect was the most likely. She could be inside a witch's labyrinth. Bizarre mind games were right up their alley, and while all the labyrinths she had encountered thus far were composed of bits of the witch's past rather than that of its opponents, finding one that worked in reverse was not outside of the realm of possibility.

    It was this last possibility that Kyoko feared the most. If this was a witch's labyrinth, then there had to be a witch attached. And the only witch she had encountered thus far was Sayaka herself. True, she had been partially restored to humanity, but the change was not complete. Furthermore, her restoration to her former appearance could just be another trick, something to lower her defenses. If that were the case, then Kyoko was likely going to have to kill Sayaka all over again.

    She didn't want it to come to that. She didn't want that to happen at all.
  5. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    First things first though. She still needed to find her soul gem, and that mirror was looking like a probable hiding place. Heck, perhaps it was a two-way mirror, and her target was watching her from the other side.

    Only one way to find out. Kyoko lunged forward and swung her spear out. The head smashed into the glass and broke it into pieces, sending shards flying everywhere. Kyoko snapped the spear back to its normal form and examined the damage.

    Nothing. The only thing on the other side of the glass was the mirror's wooden frame.

    Kyoko sighed. She walked over to the broken mirror, grabbed it by the frame, and wrenched it off the wall. Again, there was nothing to see but the bare wall.

    Well, it was worth a shot. Kyoko gave up on the mirror and returned to the bathroom.

    ...

    Sayaka was right where Kyoko had left her, which was encouraging. However, she had not awakened, which was disappointing. But her condition had improved. The burns on her torso had cooled to an inoffensive shade of pink, so that they were less threatening than a sunburn. That was good news. It meant that Sayaka still had her advanced recuperative abilities.

    However, now Kyoko was presented with the problem of how she was going to move her. Normally she would just hoist Sayaka onto her back and hold onto her legs. But seeing that Sayaka had traded her legs in for a fishlike tail, that way was right out.

    Finally, she ended up hoisting Sayaka onto her back anyway. First, she tore off strips from one of the towels and tied Sayaka's cutlass to her waist. After this she moved Sayaka's arms so that they hung to either side of Kyoko's neck and tied them together, so as to prevent her from slipping off. Then she gathered up Sayaka's tail under one arm while keeping a strong hold on her spear with the other. Then she leaned forward, making sure that the mermaid was firmly in place, and slowly stood up.

    Sayaka was heavier than she looked, but thanks to the contract she had made and all the exercise witch-hunting gave her, Kyoko was unnaturally strong. Still, it was an awkward bundle to carry, but after a few moments of grunting and adjusting her weight she managed to rise fully to her feet.

    "Just so you know, you owe me big time," Kyoko hissed to the unconscious girl on her back. "And I'm gonna make sure you pay. So you better wake up soon."

    The apartment was just as creepy as before, though Kyoko barely noticed. Her concentration was partially taken up with the burden on her back and with keeping an eye out for any new dangers. Fortunately, none presented themselves, and she was able to make it to the front door without much difficulty. Though she did spare a second to glare contemptuously at the fallen armor, even as she made a conscious effort to stay well out of its reach.

    Once she had reached the door, Kyoko set her spear against the wall and tested the door to see if it would open. To her surprise, it swung upon with ease, allowing the two of them to leave the building.

    As Kyoko had guessed, they had been in an apartment building. The one they had just exited was on the bottom floor, within the shadow of the upper walkways. Directly in front of them was the parking lot. The rain was still coming down, splattering against the asphalt and the metal rails from the levels above. Beyond, the structures of a city could be seen. Those in themselves looked normal enough, but it did not take long for Kyoko to realize that they were someplace strange.

    For one, there were no cars in the parking lot. Each space was empty. Despite this, the place had not taken the overgrown and trash-filled looked that quickly consumed abandoned apartment buildings. The walls were clean, the plants well cared for and there was very little litter to be seen.

    Second, Kyoko could see the city streets from where she stood, and either the city had some serious flooding problems to address or this place used canals in place of streets. Water rushed by like a river, completely oblivious that it was passing through sidewalks and under blinking intersection lights.

    Third, the city itself was lit up with so many colors that it was almost painful to look at. Neon signs, banners, and advertisements were everywhere, covering the cityscape with flashing lights.

    And finally, there was the sky itself. The storm clouds were unlike any that Kyoko had ever seen. They rolled and twisted over each other, forming themselves into bizarre and random shapes. Grinning skulls melted into mighty ships with in turn gave way to fluttering butterflies and so on. The clouds themselves were not the usual grey and black of a rainstorm, but a myriad of colors that likewise exploded and clashed against each other, turning from yellow to red to green and the rest of the spectrum.

    If there was any doubt that Kyoko was now inside a witch's labyrinth, it dried up in that instant. But she had never seen that recreated an entire city. And here she was, without her soul gem (how that was possible, she still couldn't figure out) and with an unconscious Sayaka to defend.

    That was, assuming that Sayaka herself wasn't the witch…

    Almost as if in response to that thought, Sayaka let out a small groan and started to move. "Wha…where?" she muttered.

    Kyoko grinned. "Hey, looks who's finally coming around." She quickly moved Sayaka's bound hands up over her head and carefully set the other girl down against the wall. Sayaka blinked several times, squinted at Kyoko and rubbed her eyes.

    "Ugh," Sayaka moaned. "What…what happened?"

    "Huh? You don't remember?" Kyoko exclaimed in disbelief. "You got turned into a witch like an idiot! And I tried to save you, like a fool! And we both ended up killing each other!"

    Sayaka squinted at her. "I…I'm sorry, but none of that made any sense. At all. Uh, do we know each other?"

    "Huh?" Kyoko's jaw dropped. "Are you serious? You don't remember me? At all?"

    Sayaka thought for a moment, and then shook her head.

    "Well, how about that one friend of yours, Ma…Makika? Right, Madoka!"

    Sayaka shook her head again.

    "Then what about Puella Magi?" Kyoko pressed. "Or Kyubey? Or soul gems? Or witches? Or grief seeds? Or…or that boy with the violin? You gave your humanity to fix him!"

    Sayaka took a deep breath. "I'm sorry," she said.

    Kyoko felt like tearing her hair out. "Argh, goddamn it, Sayaka! Don't you remember anything at all?"

    "I…I remember the music." A small, wistful smile appeared on Sayaka's face. "Such beautiful music…"

    Kyoko felt a chill run up her spine as she remembered the orchestra that Sayaka's witch had been conducting. "And that's it?" she asked. "You seriously don't remember anything else at all?"

    "I remember…" Sayaka frowned. "Wait, what did you just call me?"

    "Huh? I called you Sayaka! That's your name, Sayaka Miki!"

    "Sayaka? No, I'm pretty sure it isn't."

    "Oh?" Kyoko growled. "Then what is your name? Or, wait, don't tell me. You forgot that too, haven't you?"

    "No, I know my name," Sayaka said. She smiled in triumph, happy to have remembered that at least. "It's Oktavia. Oktavia von Seckendorff."
  6. LGear The usual flamenco at 3 times the passion~

    I haven't read a good screw like this in a while. But that chapter ending nearly made me scream. :eek:

    This is going to be one very, very long night for Kyoko... if the place even distinguishes that. And I look forward to seeing more :D
  7. I laughed when I read that final line. I can't wait to see where this goes.
  8. Kyte Onward, my steed!

    Well fuck this is one creepy start. Would be utterly awesome animated.
  9. biigoh Fluffy Paws indeed

    [IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us

    Sauce = post/show/908806/

    That last line... XD
  10. Jiven Hmmm, black tea~~ My lifeblood.

    Subscribed.

    Need more.
  11. Kyte Onward, my steed!

    God I love those minicrowns.
  12. Shudders... Lots of shudders.
  13. Innnnteresting. This one's definitely on my watch list.
  14. First response to story: o_O

    2nd response to story upon reading last line: :D Oh this promises much pain. As much as it will be a mind screw and/or painful end, it promises to be entertaining to the end.

    Keep up the good work :)
  15. Robo Jesus Your Mechanical Messiah

    Well, I can honest say that I'm surprised. And entertained. But mainly surprised.:D
  16. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Obligatory FF.net link.

    A Rude Welcoming

    Kyoko stared down at the half-fish girl that sat in front of her. "Uh…huh? Oktavia von…Sectorwhatever? What are you going on about?"

    Sayaka scratched her head. "I could ask you the same thing. That's my name, not Sayaka Miki."

    "The hell it is!" Kyoko thrust a finger at Sayaka's face. "I know you're all kinds of messed up right now, but you've got to at least remember your real name at least!"

    "I do! Oktavia von Seckendorff! Do you want me to spell it out for you?"

    Kyoko growled. Any happiness she might have felt at having Sayaka alive and…reasonably humanoid again was swiftly evaporating. She opened her mouth to start yelling again, but then a horrible thought occurred to her.

    Despite having hunted them for some time and knowing quite a bit about how to fight and kill them, Kyoko admittedly didn't know much about what a witch actually was. She had learned the hard way that they were born when a Puella Magi's soul gem became corrupted beyond repair, and that fragments of the girl they had once been were used to construct their labyrinths, but beyond that she hadn't had time to learn more about the subject. Still, there were several possibilities. One was that they actually were the soul of Puella Magi, only twisted and mutated by the forces released when their soul gem succumbed to corruption. Another was that they were an entirely new entity created by those same forces, given form and life. And finally, it could be true that they were a combination of the two, that it was in fact the Puella Magi themselves, but with their entire identity wiped clean and a new one programmed in to replace it. Which could mean any number of changes: a new personality, a new set of motivations, maybe even a new name, known only to the witch itself.

    Kyoko was no scholar, but given what she was now witnessing, her support was now for the final theory. In which case, Sayaka was not truly back at all. Her witch was simply wearing her face and using her voice.

    Kyoko's eyes narrowed. "Oh, is that right?" She kicked her spear up to her hands and thrust it forward, so that the tip was mere inches away from the other girl's forehead. "So you're still a goddamned witch? Is that it, 'Oktavia'?"

    Oktavia's body froze. Her eyes crossed as they tried to focus on the spear's point. "H-hey now," she stuttered. "Wh-what d-d-do you think you're d-doing?"

    "Gimme a second, and I'll decide," Kyoko growled.

    "Uh, okay." Oktavia slowly brought her hands up, empty palms outward. "L-let's not do a-a-anything cr-crazy now. Please. Put…Just put that spear away. Okay?"

    Kyoko did not. Her grip tightened.

    Oktavia swallowed. "Look, if y-you wanna call me S-Sayaka, go ahead. Th-that's fine! Just put that thing away."

    Kyoko stared down at the thing wearing Sayaka's face. She could feel the urge to jam the spear the rest of the way through its head well up in her. Her mind rebelled against the idea, but her body wanted to do just that. It wanted to do it very badly.

    She took a deep, shaking breath, closed her eyes and slowly let it out.

    A moment passed, and then Oktavia said, "So, are you-"

    Kyoko let out a scream of frustration and drove the point of the spear forward.

    "-No!" Oktavia screamed. She instinctively flinched back and covered her face with her arms in a futile attempt to defend herself.

    A few seconds ticked by, and then she slowly lowered her arms. Kyoko was still standing over her, breathing heavily and clenching the pole of her spear with trembling hands. The point had been driven into the wall right next to Oktavia's head.

    They stared at each other, and then Kyoko slowly pulled the spear out.

    "Why?" Oktavia asked.

    Kyoko shook her head. "Because…I don't know. Because I don't know. I don't know what's going on. I don't know where we are. I don't know who you really are, or what. But I'm gonna find out. And I want you to be there when I do, so I can decide."

    "Decide? Decide on what?"

    "What, are you an idiot?" Kyoko growled. "Decide whether or not I should kill you!"

    She turned around to look out on the bizarre city. The haze of the neon lights shone still through the curtain of rain.

    "Right now, I'm gonna go find some answers. Obviously I can't be carrying your scaly ass with me, so we're gonna have to find a place to hide you until I get back-"

    "Wait a minute!" Oktavia interrupted. "What makes you think I'm going to do anything with you? I don't even know you! And you almost killed me just now! Like I'm going to hang around with you and give you another chance!"

    Kyoko glanced at her over her shoulder. "You think you can get anywhere without me, go ahead and try," she said with a laugh. "Maybe you can try rolling your way to that river over there. You might make it. The current looks pretty strong though, and there's probably a whole mess of monsters swimming around. But hey, worth a shot, right?"

    "What are you…" Oktavia's voice trailed off when she glanced down at herself. She stared down at her tail, as if she were seeing it for the first time. Maybe she was.

    "I'm a mermaid," she said flatly.

    "No," Kyoko said. "Really?"

    "And I'm naked!" Oktavia cried. She quickly covered her breasts. "What the heck did you do with my clothes?"

    "What, you think I did that to you?" Kyoko turned toward her and stuck the butt of her spear in the ground. "I saved you from getting boiled alive and that's the gratitude I get?"

    "What? What are you talking about?"

    Kyoko took a deep breath. "I found you like that in that apartment!" she shouted, pointing a finger at the door in question. "In the bathtub! Getting yourself scalded like a lobster by superhot water! I'm the one that pulled you out and got you out of there, so you'd better be grateful!"

    Unfortunately, Kyoko's explanation didn't seem to have cleared anything up for Oktavia. If anything, the (former?) witch now looked even more confused. "But…what…"

    "I don't know, I just got done telling you!" Kyoko growled. "That's what this is all about! You're supposed to be dead, we both are! Why do you think I'm in such a bad mood?"

    "We're supposed to be…WHAT!"

    "Ah, forget it," Kyoko said wearily. "It's a ridiculously long story. But hey, for what it's worth, I promise I won't try to kill you unless I find out that you're lying to me or if you try to kill me first. Deal?"

    "Lying about what?" Oktavia cried. "What the heck are you babbling about?"

    "How many times do I have to tell you that I don't know? Ask me again, and you'll really piss me off."

    Oktavia frowned. She tilted her head to one side as her sapphire eyes studied Kyoko's face.

    "We really did know each other, didn't we?" she asked.

    Kyoko stared right back. "What kind of question is that? You think I'd go through all this trouble for some stranger?"

    "No." Oktavia shook her head. "All…right. I'm trusting you. I don't know why, but I'm trusting you."

    "Fantastic," Kyoko spat. "All right, let's find some place to hide you until I get back."

    At Oktavia's insistence and to Kyoko's reluctance, they tried the apartment door but found that it had been locked. So were all the other doors they tried. Finally they had to settle for hiding her in a corner and pulling a trash can loaded with refuse in front of her.

    "This has got to be the lousiest hiding place ever," Kyoko growled as she forced the can into place. "Seriously, stay out of sight and don't make noise. You'd better still be here when I get back."

    Oktavia looked down at her tail. "I don't think I'm going anywhere very fast."

    "Not on your own, maybe. But who knows what's out there?" Kyoko turned to leave.

    "Wait."

    Kyoko sighed. "Oh, what is it now?"

    "What's your name? You haven't told me that yet."

    She had, actually. Back when Sayaka had been human. But that had been in another existence entirely. "Kyoko Sakura," she said, her heart heavy that she had to do it again. "I guess you don't…"

    Oktavia shook her head. "Sorry."

    "Of course you are," Kyoko whispered under her breath. She turned to leave again.

    "Wait," Oktavia said again.

    "Yeah?"

    "Uh…can I borrow you jacket? It's freezing, and I'm kind of naked."

    Kyoko stared at the rainbow-finned girl. Then she wordlessly unzipped her jacket, pulled it off and tossed it her.

    "Thanks," Oktavia said as she slipped it on and zipped it up. "I think."

    Kyoko didn't answer. She just turned and leapt into the rain.

    ...
    Unbeknownst to Kyoko, she was being watched. Two small figures crouched on the apartment's rooftop, hidden in the shadow of a large air conditioner. A pair of violet eyes tracked Kyoko as she headed deeper into the city while two yellow eyes remained focused on the huddling shape of Oktavia. They exchanged a glance, and while no words were exchanged an understanding passed between them. The one with violet eyes dropped to the parking lot below and followed after Kyoko while the yellow eyed one remained crouching in place, watching.

    ...

    Given the disappearance of her soul gem and the fact that she was not in uniform, Kyoko had feared that she had lost all of her power as well. But within moments of leaving the apartment complex she was relieved to find that such was not the case. She was just as fast, strong and agile as ever, and soon was leaping across the rooftops, searching for some sign of life.

    The strange city seemed deserted. Though all the lights were on, there was no life to be seen. Very few of the buildings had windows, and those that did were completely opaque.

    Finally, when she grew tired of leaping around aimlessly, Kyoko sought out the tallest building she could find and finally settled on a radio tower adorned with green, red and blue flashing lights. She quickly scaled the structure until she was clinging to the top of its broadcast tower. From there, she could see the entire city.

    Unfortunately, the new view did not give her much information. The city stretched out far in three directions, an expanse of concrete, water canals, and neon. Beyond the city limits Kyoko could see nothing but an empty wasteland. Not a very inviting path to take.

    But in the fourth and final direction, the one she had come from, the city ended much closer. There, the streets emptied into open water. Kyoko couldn't tell if it were a large lake or an ocean, but given that all the streets were flowing toward it, that was probably their best bet for escape. Unless she wanted to carry Sayaka on her back all the way out of the city.

    First things were first. She had to find some kind of boat. And food. And clothing. And some more weapons wouldn't hurt. Kyoko slid down the side of the radio tower and vaulted back into the city. From there, she leapt from roof to roof, searching the rushing streets anything she could use.
  17. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Oktavia peeked out from behind the trashcan. The apartment's court remained as empty as before, with the falling rain providing the only movement.

    She huddled back and hugged her loaned jacket close. She had no idea what was going on, and it terrified her. She didn't know where she was, how she had gotten there, who that strange, angry girl was, or why in the world she had a tail. In fact, save for her name, she couldn't remember much of anything.

    Which isn't to say she was a complete blank. She still knew things. She knew that the sky was blue (or at least, as she noted with a fearful glance at the morphing clouds above, it was supposed to be), that water was wet, that you weren't supposed to run a red light, that Tokyo was the capital of Japan, that cake was delicious, and so on and so forth. But the actual specifics from her life, the faces and names and events, were all gone. The only name she was left with was her own, and if that crazy girl was to be believed, even that bit of information was in dispute.

    With a grimace, Oktavia clawed at her head as she tried to remember something, any at all. The music, she could remember the music quite clearly: the strumming of the violins and cellos, the clash of the cymbals, and the tinkling of the piano's keys. Unconsciously she started humming it to herself. The familiar (but from what?) melody comforted her.

    But the rest…everything was all muddled up in her head. Flashes of color, flitting images, and the odd obscured face or two. She could vaguely recall a broken hand trying to hold a violin, a tear-streaked face framed by pink hair and an overwhelming feeling of resentment and despair. Also, the spear that the strange redheaded girl had carried, that was important somehow.

    But there was no context for those brief, fractured images, nothing that allowed her to piece them together into full memories. And, given what Kyoko had told her, she wasn't sure if she wanted to.

    Oktavia whimpered. If there was one thing she was sure of, it was that she was in a lot of trouble.

    And then she straightened up. Though she might have imagined it, she thought she had heard something: the sound of something, or someone, lightly dropping down onto the sidewalk nearby.

    "Hello?" she said.

    For nearly a minute, there was no sound but the pattering of the rain. Oktavia started to relax. It had just been her imagination after all.

    And then there was a rustle of fabric, and a soft, mewling voice said, "Ticky-ticky, what do we have for Nikki?"


    After a few minutes of desperate searching, Kyoko found success. A shopping center, one that held a supermarket and a sporting goods store. The windows were pitch-black and the parking lot was empty, but it was a step in the right direction.

    Kyoko crouched in the shadows of an alley across the street (or rather, river) from the complex's side. Though the surrounding area was as lifeless as the rest of the city, she was far from ready to let her guard down. She glanced around, tensed her muscles and charged forward. The butte of her spear struck the ground, and she vaulted across the river.

    She hit the ground with a pounce, rolled over her shoulders and landed in a crouch in the cover of the stores' overhanging. A brief glance told her that she was still alone, so she straightened up and wondered which store she should loot first. While her instincts told her to raid the supermarket first, practicality reminded her that she was going to need something to hold the food. As such, she went up the front of the sporting goods store, ready to jam her spear into the crack and pry the door open.

    She needn't have worried. The door dinged and smoothly slid open, revealing a brightly lit store.

    Kyoko paused. The checked the window from the outside and found them as black as before. Then she stuck her head in. they were perfectly clear from that side, revealing a perfect view of the rain-slicked parking lot.

    A small chill swept through Kyoko's spine, one that had nothing to do with her soaked state. The windows were all one-way. Which meant that the abandoned city might not be so abandoned after all. A thousand eyes could have been watching her every move.

    Paranoia was a healthy trait for a Puella Magi to have, and Kyoko was long accustomed to listening to hers. She had to get moving.

    First order of business was to see to her own poor condition. She couldn't see any towels, but there were several racks of hooded sweatshirts nearby. Kyoko grabbed two, using one to dry herself off before pulling the other over her head and slipping her arms through the sleeves.

    That done, she headed toward the hiking section and picked out a large black backpack. She unzipped it, pulled out all the brown tissue paper and slipped it on.

    All right, now it was time to find a boat. Kyoko searched the aisles until she found the inflatable rafts.

    And just what do you intend to do with those?

    "What do you think?" Kyoko muttered to herself as she looked for the one that looked the lightest. "Looking for a way to get us out of here."

    And who is us?

    "That's a stupid question. Me and Sayaka. Who else?"

    Sayaka? Don't you mean Oktavia?

    Kyoko grimaced but didn't answer. She found a line of self-inflating rafts and yanked one off the shelf. After tearing the box open, she pulled out the roll of rubber and found the small, metal cylinder attached to the raft's side.

    With a hiss, the raft expanded and filled out. It flopped onto the tiled floor, ready to go.

    Good, they worked. It was a small one though, little more than an inner tube with a bottom, clearly designed for only one person. Still, there was no way she was lugging one of the bigger ones all the way back to the apartment. They would just have to pack themselves in the best they could. Kyoko grabbed another boxed raft and stuffed it into the backpack. The top stuck out, but she could carry it without worrying about it falling out.

    But though she hadn't answered, her doubts continued to whisper to her.

    She's still a witch. It doesn't matter what she looks like. She doesn't remember being human. All she knows about is her music, the same music she tried to kill you and her friend to protect.

    Kyoko searched until she found a couple of duffel bags. She filled half of one with a few changes of clothes. Over at the camping section, she smashed the display case and pulled out a couple of survival knives, the kind that had an unscrewable handle that hid matches and flint; a Swiss Army knife; a butterfly knife; and a machete.

    Sooner or later she's going to turn on you. It's their nature. Witches are your enemy. It's the way things are.

    "Shut up," Kyoko growled.

    I thought you had learned your lesson. Don't trust others. Always look after yourself. Why are you burdening yourself with someone you can't even trust?

    The question actually made Kyoko pause. After all, as much as she hated to admit, it was a legitimate point, one that had been gnawing at her as she had made her rounds over the city's rooftops. If the Sayaka she knew was truly gone, what good was there in looking after the witch that remained?

    Finally she said, "Part of her came back, even though it was supposed to be impossible. The rest can come back too."

    Are you sure?

    "Of course I am!" Kyoko snapped irritably. "I'll show you…me…you!" She angrily picked up her bags and sulked her way out of the store.

    Outside, things were unchanged. Kyoko cast a reproachful look at the empty parking lot and the gaudy city that lay beyond. Making her way back to Sayaka while encumbered by so much was not going to be fun. Then, with a sigh, she entered the supermarket.
  18. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Again, the door slid open as if everything were as it should be, and again the store beyond was brightly lit and completely normal looking, with only the lack of any sort of human presence indicating that something was wrong. Despite the ominous seriousness of the situation, once Kyoko was inside she started to feel a whole lot better. An entire store full of food stood unprotected before her, just waiting to be pillaged. It was too good to be true, which unfortunately added to her growing suspicion that it wasn't.

    Still, nothing was gained by passing by such a bounty. Kyoko set to work, filling the remaining space in her bags with loaves of bread, packets of snacks, canned meats and fruits, boxes of sushi and, to her delight, an expensive slab of prime rib. This almost made up for the horrors she had destroyed back at the apartment. Almost.

    The door dinged as it slid open.

    Kyoko's hungry plundering stopped instantly. She ducked into an aisle of pasta and tomato sauce and dropped into a crouch. Remaining still, she strained her ears, trying to catch some sign of movement.

    Nothing. The only sound was that of her own breathing and the beating of her heart.

    Moving with all caution, Kyoko slipped the duffel bags from her shoulders and set them on the ground. This was followed by the heavy backpack. Now unencumbered, Kyoko peeked out of the aisle at the sliding door. Again, there was no sign that anyone other than herself was in the store.

    But the door had opened. Of this, Kyoko was certain.

    She waited, her heart pounding in her ears. When nothing leapt out at her, she slowly straightened up.

    The shelves across from her exploded outward, showering her with boxes of pasta. Kyoko threw herself to the floor, just in time to avoid the flying body that sailed over her to cling to the opposite shelf. Kyoko snarled and slashed up with her spear. Her attacker evaded the strike and leapt back-and-forth along the shelves, moving quickly across the shelves.

    Despite the fact that she was now fighting for her life, Kyoko felt a whole lot better. Earlier she had been jumping at every shadow, unsure if there was someone out there who wanted to kill her. Now she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone wanted to kill her. It simplified things.

    "Hey!" she shouted. She scampered to her feet. "Get back here!" She ran after her new enemy, slashing out again with her spear. As it swung, the handle came apart and doubled in length, allowing Kyoko to thrash the aisle before her, shredding the boxes of pasta and smashing the jars and cans of tomato sauce. Unfortunately, the black-swathed stranger managed to keep just out of reach, rebounding off of each shelf a split-second before Kyoko destroyed it.

    Then the fleeing figure reached the end of the aisle. Kyoko kept running, expecting it to keep going toward the registers beyond or perhaps turning into another aisle. Instead, it gripped the edge of the shelf on the left and swung itself up and back around, hurling itself at Kyoko.

    Kyoko whipped her spear around but realized half-a-second too late that it was far too long. Her opponent twisted itself out of the way and tackled Kyoko's stomach. The next few seconds were a frantic whirlwind of madness as they rolled across the pasta-strewn linoleum.

    Kyoko's opponent managed to get behind her and wrapped its skinny arms around her neck. Kyoko gasped as her windpipe closed. She fumbled around until her hand fell upon a jagged shard of glass from one of the smashed jars of pasta sauce. She seized it up and stabbed it into her assailant's arm.

    The black-clad figure let out a scream of pain and Kyoko suddenly found herself free. She spun around to see her opponent lurching away from her, clutching its wounded arm with its pencil-thin fingers.

    Something was wrong, though. The wound wasn't bleeding; no trickle of red marred the ivory skin. Instead, wispy tendrils of white vapor seeped from the cut.

    Well, that was different. At least it proved that her enemy wasn't human. Thought that in itself made no difference in the end, it did mean that there was going to be less of a mess.

    With a sharp flick of her arm, she reattached her spear's segments into a single pole again. Then, roaring her battle-cry, she slashed her enemy across the stomach. White vapor billowed up as it fell back with another scream. Kyoko rammed it with her shoulder, driving it all the way to the ground. One of her hands closed around its throat while the other held her spear high, ready to drive its point straight down.

    It was then that she finally got a good look at her attacker's face.

    It was a girl, perhaps a couple years older than Kyoko. She was thin, almost painfully so, with sticklike limbs, a long face and a sharp, pointed chin. Her skin was so white that it might have been bleached, and there certainly was a great deal of it showing, with her garments consisting of nothing more than a long skirt, what honestly appeared to be a nun's headdress covering her hair and a narrow strip of material covering her small breasts, all of it made from black cloth. Two stabbing blades were fastened to the back of each hand by more cloth strips. In fact, the only color to be found were her eyes, which were a startling shade of violet, and wide open with fear.

    "W-wait," the girl stuttered. She held up her hands, palms forward. "D-don't…"

    Kyoko's grip tightened around the girl's throat. "Hands down," she hissed. "Palms flat on the ground.

    The girl obeyed.

    "All right," Kyoko said. "Now, you're going to answer some questions, and if you refuse, or if I don't like your answers, I'm going to peel off your face. Understand?

    The girl nodded.

    "Good. Okay, to start things off: who the heck are you, and why are you attacking me? What is this place? Why am I still alive? What did you do with my soul gem? What happened to Sayaka? Why is she half human, and why can't she remember anything? Are you a witch? Is this your labyrinth? And-"

    It was then that Kyoko made a rather disquieting discovery. The girl had no legs. Nor did she have a tail like Sayaka's. Her skirt was empty.

    "-what in the heck happened to your legs!" Kyoko exclaimed in amazement. "How do you get around? Can you fly or something?"

    The girl stared at her in uncertainty. "Um…what questions should I answer first?"

    "Pick one," Kyoko growled.

    "Are you…are you Kyoko Sakura?"

    Kyoko blinked. Then her grip tightened. "Okay, add 'How do you know my name?' to that list."

    The girl's eyes widened even further, though not with fear. "It's you, then," she whispered. "I really found you first, and you've just arrived!"

    Now Kyoko was even more confused, which just made her angrier. "Hey! You're supposed to be answering my questions, not giving me new ones! Are you saying that there's more of you creeps, and you're all looking for me?"

    "Mmmm-hmmm!" The girl's thin lips spread into a triumphant smile. "You're pretty famous around here. After all, Oblivion's had us watching for you for months!"

    Even more questions! And from the look of things, she wasn't going to like the answers. Still, at least it was a step in the right direction. At least she now had a name. "Oblivion?" she said. "Is that the person behind all this?"

    In response, the girl opened her mouth and started cackling. Kyoko was dumbstruck. It was as if she didn't even care anymore that there was a pointy blade mere inches from her face.

    "You don't have a clue," the girl gibed. "You don't have a goddamned clue."

    Kyoko released the girl's throat long enough to smack her face. "Watch your language," she hissed. "And you better start making sense, or I swear I'll-"

    "Oh, come on, Miss Sakura!" the girl said, rolling her eyes. "I already told you that there's more people like me. Did'ja think I'd really jump you without backup?" With that, her gaze flitted from Kyoko's face to focus on a point somewhere beyond her head. She smiled in recognition and waggled her dark eyebrows.

    A sharp chill swept through Kyoko as she realized what the girl was implying. She glanced over her shoulder, expecting to see another figure in black clothing hovering at the end of the aisle.

    There was no one there.

    Before Kyoko realized how thoroughly she had been suckered, the arm holding the spear erupted in red-hot pain. With a cry, she fell back and stared in horror at her right arm.

    The legless girl had taken advantage of Kyoko's distraction and slashed her with all four blades. That was bad enough, but instead of leaking blood, crimson mist seeped from the wounds to swirl in front of her face.

    Kyoko screamed.


    Oktavia was no longer alone.

    Another girl now crouched in front of her, one that was even younger than she, barely in the cusp of puberty. Her skin was so pale that Oktavia wondered if she were wearing full-body paint or makeup. Her outfit was certainly…unusual, consisting of a black leotard slashed in strategic places to prevent glimpses of the bone-white skin beneath, knee-length boots, elbow-length gloves, and a headdress that looked vaguely Egyptian, all made from the same featureless black material. Her face was round, her cheeks dimpled, and her yellow eyes shone with gleeful delight. On a fully grown woman, her get-up would distinguish her as a dangerous, if eccentric, femme fatale, someone who was well used to using violence and seduction in equal amounts to get what she wanted. That, or a professional dominatrix. But on someone so young-looking, it was a bit sickening.

    Either way, the girl was clearly not sane. And the oversized steel knife she was turning between her fingers was not making Oktavia any more comfortable with the situation.

    "Looky, looky, who do we have for Nikki?" the girl sing-songed. "A little fishy, and on dry land! Silly fishy, there's no water here!" Then she blinked at if something had just occurred to her. After a glance over her shoulder at the rain, she amended, "Well, maybe there is, but Nikki really don't think it's enough. Besides, you're hiding here, away from all the water! Silly fishy, why are hiding from the water?"

    Oktavia had no idea how she was supposed to answer that question, so instead she asked, "Who…who are you?"

    The girl sucked in a surprised breath between her teeth. "Oh, what a dunce Nikki is!" she cried, slapping a hand across her forehead. "She completely forgot her manners! So sorry, fishy. To her friends, she's known as Ticky Nikki. Pleased to make your acquaintance!"

    "Ticky Nikki?" Oktavia repeated. It was certainly as unusual as its owner. And it somehow fit, in its own bizarre way.

    All friendliness melted away from the girl's face in an instant. "NO!" she snarled. She lunged forward and pressed the razor-edge of her knife against Oktavia's throat. "Don't call her that, it's insulting!"

    "But, but…" Oktavia sputtered, doing her best to keeping from swallowing. "You said…"

    "She said that her friends call her Ticky Nikki! How can you be friends with her? You just met!" The girl shook her head in disgust. "No, you just get to call her 'Nikki'."

    "Okay, okay!" Oktavia said. "I get it! Nikki. Understood."

    "Oh! Well, that's good then." The knife went away and Nikki backed off a couple steps to sit on her ankles, but Oktavia was far from relieved.

    "So," Nikki said. "What'cha waiting for, ticky-ticky?"

    "Uh…what?"

    Nikki tsked. "Mind your manners, fishy. Nikki gave you her name. Now it's your turn!"

    "Oh, sorry. I'm Oktavia von Seckendorff."

    The sound of her name seemed to delight Nikki. She threw her head back and cackled, a harsh, grating noise that made Oktavia flinch and cover her ears. "Ah, lovely!" Nikki crowed. "A proper witch's name, and the best one Nikki's ever heard! You witches are so lucky. You come here with no nasty pasts dragging you down, and you get the best names. Nikki sometimes wishes she got to be a witch like her big sis. Then she'd get a cool witch name too!"

    Oktavia seized upon that word: witch. Kyoko had called her that, before she had run off. She knew what it meant, of course. A female magic user that flew around on a broom and wore a pointy hat, with black cats occasionally serving as pets. However, given the context, she was reasonably certain that this wasn't what either of these crazy girls meant.

    "That's the second time I've been called a witch," she said, speaking slowly and carefully so as not to anger Nikki again. "What does that mean?"

    Nikki stared at her. Then she snapped her fingers and said, "Oh, that's right! You're a noob! Sorry, Nikki forgot."

    "Noob?"

    "Uh-huh. New to this place. Annabelle Lee was the same way, when we first got here. Nikki had to tell her everything. It took forever!"

    "Who?"

    "Nikki's big sister," Nikki said, waving off the questions as unimportant. "She went after your friend, that girl with the big spear."

    "You mean Kyoko?"

    Nikki sucked in another breath. "Kyoko?" she said eagerly. She got down on all fours and pushed herself uncomfortably close to Oktavia's face. "Kyoko Sakura? That's her?"

    Oktavia tried to keep away from the mad girl's face as best she could. "Yes! At least, that's what she said. Why, do you know her?"

    "Nope! Do you?" But before Oktavia could answer in the negative, Nikki said, "Oh, wait! You wouldn't know! Sorry, forgot again, ticky-ticky. But we saw her shouting at you." She grinned, and Oktavia suddenly wished that she hadn't. The sight of her teeth was not pleasant. Apparently this world did not have dentists. "I think you did know each other."

    "So do I," Oktavia said. "I just wish I knew how."

    Nikki grinned. "Eh, you'll figure it out. We did, big sis and Nikki."

    "I sure hope so," Oktavia muttered. Then her mind seized upon something Nikki had said. "Wait, you said your sister was going after Kyoko?"

    Nikki nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! We've been looking for her for months!"

    "You have? Uh, why?"

    "Dunno," Nikki said, shrugging. "Was hoping you could tell us. But Reibey says that Oblivion wants her bad, and what Oblivion wants, Oblivion gets!"

    There was a change in the mad girl's demeanor. As she spoke the name Oblivion, her eyes misted over, and her tone became one of devoted longing. It was clear that this was someone Nikki revered. While that was useful information, it did mean that Oktavia was going to have to choose her words carefully. One imagined slight, and Nikki might start thinking with her knife again.

    "Okay," Oktavia said. "And did this…Reibey?"

    "Uh-huh. He's our boss!"

    "Right. And is…Oblivion his boss?"

    "Uh-huh!" Nikki said again, with a quick nod of her head. "Whenever Oblivion wants something, she tells Reibey! And then Reibey tells us, and we make sure it gets done! And then Oblivions gets happy, and someone gets released!"

    "Released?"

    "Freed! Sent off! Only Oblivion can release us from this world, and she only releases those who serve her best!" Nikki's starting twitching with excitement. "And…and if we bring her Kyoko Sakura, she's going to be so happy with us! Maybe she'll even release us both, at the same time!" She placed a hand on her cheek, closed her eyes and sighed wistfully. "Wouldn't that be perfect? We're always together, you see. We grew up together, became Puella Magi together, and died together."

    "HUH?" Oktavia gaped. "What? Died…what? But you're alive!"

    "Oh, right." Nikki chortled to herself. "Sorry, forgot again, ticky-ticky. No, we're not. Wouldn't be here if we were."

    Oktavia's arms started trembling for reasons that had nothing to do with the cold. "So then, Kyoko and I really are…"

    "That's right," Nikki said, baring her horrible teeth once again. "Sucky news, I know. But you'll get used to it. Welcome to Hell."
  19. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Kyoko grabbed at her arm, desperately trying to stifle the flow of red vapor. She screamed the whole time.

    "Surprised?" the pale girl gibed, cutting into the horror that was numbing Koyko's mind. Laughing, she shoved herself out from under Kyoko. "Oh man, are you for a rotten week."

    It was then that Kyoko learned exactly how the girl managed to get around without legs. She rose into the air like a wraith. Letting out a bloodthirsty shriek, she swooped down, blades extended and zeroing in on Kyoko's stomach.

    Now acting purely on instinct, Kyoko threw herself back and thrust her hand forward. Several chains, all made from diamond shaped-links, materialized in the air before her, coming together to form a barrier. The pale girl's eyes widened as she realized what was happening less than a second before collision and tried to arrest her own momentum, but by then it was far too late. She slammed into the barrier and was knocked sprawling to the floor.

    With a grunt of satisfaction, Kyoko banished the barrier. Good, that still worked. Then she focused on the pale girl, who had still to come to her senses.

    Kyoko swept out with the pole of her spear. She caught the pale girl by the throat and, gripping both ends of the pole, swung the girl up and slammed her back-first against the nearby shelves. "What's going on here already?" she shouted into the girl's face. "Why wasn't I bleeding?" She held up her wounded arm. "And what's this red stuff…Huh?"

    The red vapor was no longer issuing from her arm, and nor was it wounded any longer. Though the sleeve of her hooded sweater still sported four gashes, the skin underneath was unharmed. And come to think of it, the pale girl was no longer leaking that white smoke either, and the cuts Kyoko had given her had closed up as well.

    Where in the world was this place?

    Instead of answering, the pale girl stopped trying to push the pole away from her throat and slashed out at Kyoko again. This time, Kyoko had enough presence of mind to dodge the swipes. She twisted her body left and right, sought out an opening, and found it. Her right foot lashed out, catching the pale girl right on the bellybutton, slamming her back against the shelf.

    "TALK!" Kyoko roared.

    The pale girl gasped for breath, but managed to retain her self-satisfied smirk. "I'll…let Oblivion fill you in," she said. "After all…you two are going to be spending…a lot of time together."

    "Like hell we are!" Kyoko growled. "The only time I'm spending with him is until he runs out of ass for me to kick!"

    She drove her spear forward. This time, the pale girl managed to roll out of the way just in time, barely avoiding what most certainly would have been an impaling blow. She leapt into the air, once again bounding from shelf-to-shelf all the way down the aisle.

    "Her, not him!" the pale girl shouted over her shoulder. "Oblivion is a her!"

    "Like I care!" Kyoko shouted back. "And you're not getting away with that trick again!" She thrust her finger forward, and another barrier sprang to life midway through the aisle, stopping the pale girl before she could go any further.

    This time, the pale girl recovered more quickly, and managed to pick herself off the floor and turn around. But she still was too slow, as Kyoko was already on her.

    Again the pale girl found herself with the pole of Kyoko's spear jammed against her throat and shoving her backwards. But unlike last time, there was no shelf in the way, allowing Kyoko to keep driving her back. Broken glass and scattered noodles crunched under her boots as she pushed the pale girl back through the aisle, out past the registers and directly at the one-way windows.

    Kyoko briefly wondered if the windows would withstand the impact, or if they would allow her to crash right through. It didn't matter, as neither result was in the pale girl's favor. Her black wearing opponent knew it too, as right before impact she seemed to realize where they were heading and squeezed her eyes shut in anticipation.

    It turned out to be the latter. The window shattered, and Kyoko only stumbled for half-a-step before regaining her balance. She slammed the pale girl against a concrete pillar, whirled her spear around to thrust the butte into her opponent's stomach and slammed the heel of her boot into her face. The back of the pale girl's head cracked against the pillar and she slumped to the ground, unconscious.

    Behind her, the door dinged and slid open, blissfully unaware that Kyoko had missed.

    Kyoko considered finishing her opponent off right then and there. It would certainly be the smart thing to do. But she still hadn't gotten any of her questions answered. And, as she had had learned one unfortunate rainy night a few months ago, killing your only known source of information just meant you had to waste time looking for a new one.

    But then there was something else, something that Kyoko realized with a gasp, something even more pressing than information. The pale girl had said that there were others like her, other servants of this "Oblivion". And while she had been lying about having immediate backup, there was no reason to doubt that there were other strange persons in black skulking throughout the city, ones just as deadly as the one she had knocked out.

    This realization was followed by another, one just bad. Sayaka's cutlass, forgotten in the confusion, was still tied around her waist.

    She had left Sayaka all alone, with no means of defending herself.

    That did it. She had to go, now. Kyoko glanced at her fallen adversary, grimaced, and slashed out with her spear. White vapor billowed up and formed a thick cloud. Kyoko, however, was already moving, sprinting across the parking lot to vault back into the city, all the while praying that she wasn't too late.


    "Hell?" Oktavia gasped. "Wait, are you serious? We're in Hell? Fire, devils, pitchforks, all that stuff?"

    Nikki shrugged. "Eh. Hell, Heaven, Purgatory, Hades, Nirvana, Aaru, Netherworld, Valhalla, Yomi, whatever. Does it make a difference?"

    "I think it does, yes!"

    "Maybe. But Heaven or Hell, it really doesn't matter, ticky-ticky. This is the place all good Puella Magi and witches go when they die. And all the bad ones too." She shook her head and giggled. "Guess they forgot to mention this place when they asked us to make a contract."

    "Contract?"

    "Jeez, what is it with you and the obvious questions? It's Annabelle Lee all over again." Nikki stood to her feet and put one hand on her hip, the other still gesturing with her knife. "But don't worry. Everything will be made clear, soon enough." She turned, looking out to the rain. "Big sis will be back with Kyoko Sakura, and we'll all go back to Oblivion together!"

    With a happy squeal of delight, Nikki clasped her hands together and jumped up and down. "Oh, I can't wait! She'll be so happy! She'll smile at Nikki, and pat her head, and say 'Good job, Nikki! I knew I could count on you!' And then Reibey will say, 'Yes! You're the best Void Walker of all time!' And then big sis will give Nikki a hug and kiss her cheek, and we'll have a big party! With cake and balloons and those clever little monkeys with the funny hats and those music boxes you crank and peanuts…"

    So intent Nikki was on her private daydreams that she forgot to keep an eye on Oktavia, who had, at that moment, decided that she didn't want to go anywhere near this Oblivion person, even if she would answer all her questions. And she certainly had no intention of waiting around for Annabelle Lee to return. She had been awake for less than an hour, and already she had been threatened by two crazy girls. A third was just plain overdoing things.

    But what could she do? She couldn't walk. She could barely crawl. And she wasn't armed. Whereas Nikki had working legs, a large knife, and absolutely no inhibitions about using either. As Nikki danced around and ranted to herself, Oktavia scanned the surrounding area, looking for something, anything that could be used as a weapon. But there was nothing. The only things within reach were the jacket she was wearing and…

    The trash can.

    Keeping a wary eye on the celebrating Nikki, Oktavia reach up and grabbed the trash can's aluminum lid. She then carefully lifted it up and brought it close to her, holding it like a shield. Of course, the odds of her hitting Nikki accurately enough and hard enough to knock her out were so astronomically high that they might as well be non-existent. But it was the only shot she had.

    Unfortunately, Nikki chose that exact moment to return her attention to her.

    "No!" she cried. She lunged at Oktavia, knife-first. "Bad fishy!"

    Acting on instinct, Oktavia shoved the metal lid directly into the blade's path. There was the sharp sound of metal tearing, and the next thing she knew, she was staring the knife's blade, protruding out of the back of the lid, less than a foot from her face.

    On the other side, Nikki growled and tugged on the handle. Realizing that the knife had gotten stuck, Oktavia tried to wrestle both lid and knife out of Nikki's grasp. Unfortunately, while they were an equal match for strength, Nikki had the advantage of leverage and legs.

    "No! Fishy let go!" Nikki shouted. She released the knife's handle, grabbed the metal lid's edge, and threw herself back, wrenching the whole thing out of Oktavia's grasp.

    Oktavia flinched, bracing herself for the feeling of sharp steel cutting into her flesh. But while Nikki's angry sputtering continued, the fatal strike never came.

    Oktavia opened her eyes. Nikki seemed to have forgotten her entirely and was instead struggling to free her knife from the hold the lid had gotten on it. She was now holding it by the edges with both hand and banging it repeatedly against the wall.

    "Stupid thing! Give Nikki back her knife!"

    Not knowing how long it would take Nikki to calm down and start attacking the problem from a rational mindset (if ever), Oktavia decided that she didn't want to be here at all. So, while Nikki was distracted, Oktavia slowly eased the trash can out of the way, flipped onto her stomach and started crawling away on her elbows as fast as she could, all the while cursing the fate that had saddled her with such a useless tail.

    As Oktavia made her slow but panicked way toward the parking lot, she found herself actually hoping that Kyoko would return quickly. She much preferred the redhead's anger and death threats to Nikki's childish madness. At least Kyoko seemed to be willing to consider other options before gutting Oktavia like the fish she appeared to be.
  20. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    As Kyoko leapt from building to building, she eventually came to realize an unfortunate truth: she had forgotten to mark out the apartment's location. And, with all the building hopping she had done, she had completely lost her way.

    Panic threatened to rise up, but she beat it back down. No, she couldn't lose her head now. Every second she delayed lessened Sayaka's chances.

    The radio tower. Right, it had been visible from the apartment, and not too far at that. Kyoko found a tall enough building, leapt her way up its fire escape and, once at the top, quickly scanned the city's skyline.

    There! Though difficult to make out through the haze of the rain and neon lights, she could see the blinking radio tower rising high above its neighbors. Grinning, she bounded her way toward the tower's location.

    And then something slammed into her. Hard.

    Kyoko gasped as she was knocked off course. She slammed into a nearby wall, felt her teeth rattle, and tumbled down into an alleyway to crash land into an open dumpster.

    The impact knocked her silly, and for a few terrifying moments the world swam around her. But then her vision cleared enough to make out what had hit her.

    The pale girl was there, somehow managing to crouch on the dumpster's side despite her lack of legs. Her teeth were bared in a snarl of pure fury, and, to Kyoko's dismay, there wasn't a mark on her.

    "Hey!" Kyoko said as she scrambled to sit up. "The hell? I killed you!"

    The pale girl turned her head and spat. "Please! Like cutting me open would kill me! If that worked, I would have done it myself ages ago!"

    Kyoko rolled back onto her shoulders and leapt back to her feet. So, her opponent was a black-wearing pale-skinned teenaged girl who talked about suicide and cutting herself. At least she now had a better idea of what she was up against.

    Freaking emos.

    She struck out with her spear, but this time the move was expected. The pale girl ducked the swipe and grabbed the spear right under the head as it swept by.

    The next thing Kyoko knew, she was flying straight up into the air, dragged along by her own spear.

    "I don't care if I have to cut you to pieces and stick you in a box!" the pale girl shouted down at her. "But you're going back with me to Oblivion whether you like it or not!"

    "Like hell I am!" Kyoko shouted back.

    Then she released her spear.

    It took the pale girl nearly five seconds to realize that she had lost her passenger. She looked down to see Kyoko standing on the rooftop below, with a triumphant grin on her face.

    The pale girl stared down at her. Kyoko could see the thoughts going through her mind, as clearly as if she had said them out loud. Why, she was wondering, had she let go and left herself defenseless?

    Then Kyoko drew Sayaka's cutlass, and the pale girl's confusion gave way to understanding.

    And then Kyoko stomped the ground with one boot. In response, the rooftop cracked apart, allowing a second spear to rise up to her other hand.

    "That's right," Kyoko said to her. "All my powers still work. I figured it out." She pointed at the fuming girl with Sayaka's cutlass. "And three guesses to what you're still holding, the first two don't count."

    The pale girl glanced down at her hands and remembered, to her horror, that her opponent was, soul gem or no soul gem, a Puella Magi. And Puella Magi had an empathetic connection to their weapons. And she was now holding one of those weapons by the neck.

    Before she could drop it, the spear's pole separated into segments and snaked up to wrap around round her body, binding her skinny arms to her body.

    "Hey!" she cried as she struggled to free herself. "Let me go!"

    At this point, Kyoko was disinclined to acquiesce the pale girl's request. Instead, she settled for screaming her battle-cry and leaping toward her bound enemy, spear and cutlass alike crossed in front of her.

    The anger on the pale girl's face gave way to terror when she realized just how much this was going to hurt.

    Seconds later, a mass surrounded by billowing white smoke tumbled through the air to splash into one of the nearby waterways and Kyoko was once again leaping her way toward the radio tower.


    If there was one good thing Oktavia could say about Nikki it was that the mad girl took her distractions seriously. Indeed, she had managed to speed-crawl more than three-fourths of the way to the parking lot before Nikki finally came to the conclusion that slamming the trash can's lid against the wall until it was a shapeless lump wasn't getting her anywhere and decided to change tactics.

    She grabbed the handle of the knife and angrily wiggled it back and forth until the tear widened enough for her to finally yank it free. Grinning in triumph, she held up her free weapon and lovingly stroked its side with her other hand.

    "There we go!" she exclaimed. "Nasty fishy, trying to-"

    Then she glanced to the side and saw Oktavia doing her best to scurry away from her. "What? No, bad fishy!" she cried again and she ran after her. She slammed her boot between Oktavia's shoulder blades and shoved her down, making her cry out in pain.

    "Where do you think you're going?" she demanded. "Trying to get away from Nikki? Bad, bad, fishy! You're so rude!" She brandished her knife. "Maybe Nikki should take away your arms, see how well you crawl when-"

    "Hey. Ugly."

    The voice was not Oktavia's. Nor was it Nikki's. Nor was it that of Nikki's adored older sister, Annabelle Lee. Nikki looked up from her tormenting of Oktavia to see something that was both unexpected and wholly terrifying.

    A red spearhead the size of an automobile hovered in the air, its tip pointing directly at Nikki's head. Holding the spearhead aloft was a series of poles as thick as tree trunks joined together by heavy chains. The whole apparatus was now rearing up out of the nearby canal like an angered cobra, or a perhaps a scorpion's tail.

    And there, standing right behind the spearhead, with a silver cutlass in one hand and a spear that was a perfect miniaturized version of the one she now rode in the other, was Kyoko Sakura.

    Kyoko's eyes focused on the dumbstruck Nikki, and it was clear that her intentions were not at all friendly.

    She said, "I'm the only one who gets to threaten her."

    Oktavia closed her eyes, though not out of fear. As much as she disliked Nikki, she had a feeling that the next few seconds weren't something she would want to witness.

    Fortunately, it was over quickly. There was the sound of some heavy hitting something soft, a ripping noise, and a shrill shriek. Nikki's boot disappeared from her back, and then there was the sound of a splash.

    "Freaking emos," she heard Kyoko mutter.

    The next thing Oktavia knew, Kyoko was crouching next to her. "Sayaka!" she said, worriedly shaking her by the shoulder. "Hey, you okay? Did she hurt you? Come on, say something!"

    Oktavia coughed and pushed herself up. "Yeah, I'm okay," she grunted. "I'm fine."

    "Sure you are," Kyoko said, her tone less than believing. She flipped Oktavia onto her back and started patting her down, searching for any hidden knife wounds.

    "Hey, knock it off!" Oktavia said as she pushed her away. "I told you, I'm fine!" She glanced around. Nikki was nowhere to be seen.

    Kyoko still didn't look convinced. "Who the hell was that?" she demanded. "What'd she do to you?"

    "Mostly just ranted nonsense and acted really weird. She didn't start getting serious about that knife until right before you showed up." She looked Kyoko up and down and frowned.

    Kyoko took a step back. "What?" she said, her tone defensive.

    "You came back."

    "Well, yeah. Any reason why I shouldn't have?"

    Oktavia shook her head. She smiled. "No. It's just…you came back."

    Kyoko was growing visibly irritated. "Hey, just because I might have to end up killing you doesn't mean I want to, or that I don't like you. I went through way too much trouble to get you back. I'm not going to let you get knifed by one of these freaking emos."

    With that, she knelt down to pick up Oktavia by the armpits. "Come on," she grunted. "We gotta get out of here, now. Before she wakes up or more of them show up."

    "Wakes up?" Oktavia looked around again, expecting to see Nikki lying unconscious against one of the walls. "I thought you killed her."

    "Yeah, turns out these guys can't die. I ran into another in the city. Trust me, that nut with the knife is gonna be back soon." With that, Kyoko reached down and picked Oktavia up onto her shoulders in a fireman's carry.

    "Hey!" Oktavia protested. "What-"

    "Unless you can fly too, get over it!" Kyoko started jogging toward where her giant spear still sat in the nearby canal. She talked as she went. "There's a whole bunch of these creeps! They're working for some chick named-"

    "Oblivion, I know!" Oktavia said as she clutched at Kyoko's arm for dear life. "Nikki kept going on about her, like she worships her or something!"

    "Nikki's the nut with the knife, yeah?"

    "Yeah! She said her big sister was looking for you, someone called Annabelle Lee!"

    "Is that what her name was?" Kyoko stopped on the wet sidewalk, in front of the canal. "Yeah, we met."

    Oktavia looked up at the giant spear hovering over them. "Wait, is that-"

    "The thing I killed us with? Yeah, you remember?"

    "A little."

    "Well, it's a start," Kyoko muttered. Oktavia then cried in surprise out as Kyoko swung her off her shoulders to unceremoniously drop her on the concrete.

    Kyoko snapped her fingers, and the spear lowered itself to settle in the rushing water, the blade flat against the surface. Another snap, and the pole's segments connected and became whole. The pole's length shrank down until it was only about the length of its smaller cousin, though the thickness remained the same.

    It was then that Oktavia realized what Kyoko intended. "Hold up!" she said, pushing herself up on her palms. "You don't actually intend for us to ride that thing, do you?"

    "Oh, you got a better idea, do you?" Kyoko snapped at her as she tossed the cutlass and the smaller spear on board. "I lost the raft I found, so unless you want me to carry your scaly ass everywhere we go from now on, quit your bitchin'."

    "Yeah? And where are we going, exactly?" Oktavia demanded.

    "I dunno, we'll figure it out when we get there. Now, stop talking and hold still!"

    "What? Why do you-AGH!"

    That last cry of surprise was due to the fact that Kyoko had just reached down and scooped Oktavia up into her arms. At another time and another place, the gesture might have been mistaken for protective, affectionate, even sweet. Alas, while Kyoko was known for being occasionally protective, she did not have a reputation for affection or sweetness. And this was only further punctuated when she simply tossed Oktavia onto the flat of the spearhead before leaping on board herself.

    Making sure that the weapons were secured, Kyoko crouched near the spear's tip and shouted over her shoulder, "Okay, this is gonna be fast! Hold on!"

    "Hold on?" Oktavia looked around at the oversized spearhead. "To what?"

    "To me, you idiot! Hurry up!"

    Oktavia raised an eyebrow, but she crawled up to where Kyoko crouched and wrapped her arms around her waist. "Uh, okay. So, when you said this thing was going to go fast, how fast did you-WAHHH!"

    The spearhead shot forward, riding the current quicker than any speedboat. Rain splattered against their faces and the glowing lights of the city and the morphing lights of the sky flashed by, blending together to form a nauseating display. Energized by the speed and the success of their escape, Kyoko threw her head back and laughed maniacally in exhilaration. As for Oktavia, she just held on tight, closed her eyes, and did her best not to be sick.
  21. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    In another part of the city in another canal, the water was rushing just as quickly, but it was otherwise unremarkable, just another strange street in a strange city that was filled with them.

    And then a thin, ghostly pale hand bound with black strips of cloth and sporting two steel blades on its back thrust up out of the current to seize the nearby sidewalk. It was soon followed by its twin, and Annabelle Lee surfaced with a gasp. Panting and growling, she hoisted herself onto the sidewalk and flopped onto her back.

    She lay there with her eyes closed, ignoring the rain that fell onto her exhausted body. The only thing that concerned her was getting her breathing under control.

    Once she was sure that she had recovered adequately, Annabelle Lee flipped over onto her stomach, pushed herself up onto her palms and shot off into the air. She gained speed and altitude and was soon soaring high above Genocide City on a direct course for the apartment complex where she had left Nikki. She had no thought of seeking out Kyoko Sakura. By now she would be long gone and impossible to find. Now the only thing to do was collect her deranged sister.

    However, Annabelle Lee had every intention of finding her very soon in the future and repaying her for certain grievances before delivering whatever was left to Oblivion and Reibey. While she had never had a negative thought about Oblivion throughout her years of service, she now grimly thought that whatever reward was to be obtained for successfully capturing Kyoko Sakura, it had better be worth the trouble of bringing her down.

    As expected, neither Kyoko nor that blue-haired witch with the mermaid tail was to be found at the apartment. Neither was Nikki, for that matter. While Annabelle Lee wasn't especially concerned for her sister's well-being (an inability to die tended to decrease her feeling in that aspect), she was mildly worried that Nikki had been taken prisoner. Or that she had forgotten what she was supposed to do and done something incredibly stupid. Given her track record, the latter was the most likely.

    "Nikki!" she called as she circled over the complex. "Hey, where are you? Come on, you were supposed to be watching the mermaid! Don't tell me you went and screwed up again!"

    And then she saw her.

    There, in a nearby canal, where the waterway forked into two other branches, forming a Y shape, was a black and white bundle. It had somehow gotten stuck right where the two branches separated.

    Annabelle Lee rolled her eyes. Oh, she couldn't wait to hear Nikki explain this one.

    Swooping down, she grabbed her younger sister by the arms and yanked her out of the water. "Hey!" she said, smacking Nikki's cheeks. "Ticky Nikki! Wake up!"

    In response, Nikki's head just lolled back and forth. Her eyes remained closed.

    Annabelle Lee got behind her and wrapped her arms around her middle. She bunched her clasped her fingers into a fist, brought it up under Nikki's ribcage, and shoved up. Hard.

    Nikki's eyes bulged open and water spewed out of her mouth like a fountain. She fell onto her hands and knees, coughing.

    Annabelle Lee waited for her sister to gather herself (or at least, as much as Nikki could ever gather herself) before asking, "Nikki, what the hell happened to you? You were supposed to be watching the mermaid, remember?"

    "Was," Nikki gagged. She sat back onto her heels. "Then we talked, and she thought she was Nikki's friend, but then she told her that she wasn't, so she made everything all clear, and then she told her where she was going to go, but she didn't know anything and got all confused-"

    Annabelle Lee, whose head was swimming from the pronoun confusion (a common hazard of dealing with Nikki's tendency to address herself in the third person in a world completely inhabited by females), interrupted her sister with, "Yeah, whatever. How'd you end up in the water?"

    "Oh! That! Redhead girl showed up, riding a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig spear." Nikki held her hands apart for emphasis. "And then things started to hurt a lot."

    This news just made Annabelle Lee grunt. While she still wanted to gouge out Kyoko Sakura's eyeballs, she had to admit to a certain amount of grudging admiration. Newly arrived Puella Magi very rarely reassumed mastery over their abilities so quickly. True, Annabelle Lee had given Kyoko plenty of motivation, but to already regain use of her ultimate attack…it was impressive.

    Still, if there was one silver lining to be found, it was the knowledge that Kyoko Sakura could not possibly know what expending so much energy at one time was going to cost her. The thought made Annabelle Lee's thin lips twist into a smile.

    "Hey," Nikki said as she stood up. "Annabelly. Was that really Kyoko Sakura?"

    Annabelle Lee scowled at her sister. "What did I tell you about calling me that? And yeah, it was."

    "Did she beat you too?"

    "Yeah," Annabelle Lee said with a sigh. "She did."

    Nikki pondered this. Annabelle Lee could practically see the synapses racing through her sister's fragmented brain.

    Finally Nikki said, "So…we found her, like Reibey told us to. But she beat us both and got away, didn't she?"

    "Yep," Annabelle Lee said with another sigh. "That she did."

    "Oh." Nikki's eyes flitted back and forth. She whimpered. "Reibey's gonna be mad, isn't he?"

    Annabelle Lee laid a hand on her sister's shoulder. "Yeah," she said, wincing in anticipation of what promised to be a very unpleasant debriefing session. "Reibey's gonna be mad."
  22. biigoh Fluffy Paws indeed

    Rei Bey?
  23. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Yup. The "Kyuu" in Kyubey means nine in Japanese, while "Juu" from Jubey means ten.

    Rei means zero.
  24. Jiven Hmmm, black tea~~ My lifeblood.

    Yeah, more badass Kyoko !

    Although I really like this update, I have found a problem with canon.

    When and where did she had time to hear these hypothesis ? After learning that Witches are born from Puella Magi by witnessing Sayaka witching out, Kyoko wasn't in spirit for some sort of brainstorming with Homura (who doesn't have the character for doing that) and Madoka (who was depressed). Then rushed to try to save her.
    My problem is that she couldn't have discussed what is really a Witch with anyone else. Maybe she could have done the thinking by herself, but there wasn't "others" to speak with.
  25. TakerFoxx Dead Parrot

    Good point, I had forgotten about that. I'll see about tweaking that part.

    And, tweaked! Sorry about that. Meant to fix that a few days ago, but it was forgotten during the editing process.

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